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The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong

Review

The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong

What’s your average high schooler to do when he’s somewhat of a geek, somewhat of an athlete and fits in nowhere in between? Lindsay Tam Holland’s THE COUNTERFEIT FAMILY TREE OF VEE CRAWFORD-WONG takes the traditional story of a misfit teen and places it within a fun and entertaining frame.

"Though Tam Holland can use clichés a bit too often in her work --- witness the geeky guy and the hot girl, for one thing --- she manages to make it fresh by adding in Vee’s own confusion about his mixed heritage."

Like most other guys his age, Vee’s got a crush on the hottest girl in school, who rebuffs him. He’s also determined to get picked for basketball, which isn’t likely to happen and is struggling in his classes. To top it all off, he’s neither too thin nor too fat, but some mixture that he owes to his Chinese-American heritage --- his dad’s Chinese, his mom is white, and Vee feels like he belongs to neither culture. His dad won’t talk about his family --- an equally sensitive topic for his mom’s side.

Of course, when Vee’s teacher proposes a family history project, Vee doesn’t want to rustle any feathers. Instead of probing into his parents’ family pasts, he uses Wikipedia to create a sensationalist genealogy, placing his paternal grandfather on the front lines of pivotal events in Chinese history. His parents are furious when they find out, and Vee is despondent. His best friend and he aren’t talking, and his life seems like it’s at an impasse.

So, he manages to forge a letter from his dad’s parents in China, supposedly requesting their son, daughter-in-law and grandson to visit. Vee’s father is surprised, to say the least, but takes his father up on his “offer.” Before he knows it, Vee finds himself knee-deep in his own roots --- but will the Wong family turn out to be everything he ever dreamed of or nothing like he imagined?

Though Tam Holland can use clichés a bit too often in her work --- witness the geeky guy and the hot girl, for one thing --- she manages to make it fresh by adding in Vee’s own confusion about his mixed heritage. What is he --- Chinese or white? Can he be both? What does it mean that even his body doesn’t resemble either stereotype of the aforementioned cultures? How can he expect to fit in in school if he doesn’t even fit in with himself?

The author explores these important questions of identity through an intriguing plot device --- Vee’s own subterfuge. While the reader may feel uncomfortable that Vee got a trip to China by lying to his parents, that time serves as the quintessential “hero’s journey” for the teen. Not only does he come to realize his own self-worth, he also finds his place within his cultural background, one that he can finally learn about and come to terms with. What he finds might not be what he expected, or it might be just that --- Vee isn’t sure, but along with the reader, he’s game for the ride.

Reviewed by Carly Silver on July 19, 2013

The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong
by L. Tam Holland

  • Publication Date: July 23, 2013
  • Genres: Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 144241264X
  • ISBN-13: 9781442412644